Monday, June 29, 2009

The Confederate Blockade of the Potomac

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Even before Virginia became part of the Confederacy, Northern Virginians realized the opportunity they had to strangle Washington by erecting land batteries on prominent points along the Potomac River.

The decision to do so was finally reached in August 1861, while the Union army lay paralyzed after its defeat at Bull Run. In all, there were thirty seven heavy guns placed along the river. And five regiments were encamped along the river to protect the vital gun positions. The Confederates also had a captured steamer, the C.S.S City of Richmond, terrorizing smaller craft on the river.

The Confederate defenses effectively closed the Potomac River from August 1861 to March 1862. The speediest ships could be kept under constant fire for almost an hour. The Confederate blockade was so successful that a foreign correspondent reported that Washington was the only city in the United States which really was blockaded.

When Confederate forces shifted south in March 1862 to forestall a Union drive on Richmond, the batteries along the river were evacuated.

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1 comment:

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